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Detroit Pistons Ownership

The Detroit Pistons ownership has been entitled to couple of owners. Fred Zollner of Zollner Corporation originally owned the Detroit Pistons.


The company, manufactured pistons for cars, trucks and locomotive engines, hence the nickname. The team was originally named the Fort Wayne Zolllner Pistons and played in the National Basketball League.

The team began competing in the Basketball Association of America in 1948; a year later Fred Zollner managed a deal that merged the National Basketball League with the basketball Association of America and the NBA was born.

In 1957 the team was moved to Detroit for a bigger arena. The city of Detroit lost the Detroit Gems of the NBL, who became the Minneapolis Lakers and eventually landed in Los Angeles. Fred Zollner was born in 1901 and graduated form the University of Minnesota. He became know as Mr. Pro Basketball.

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He formed his first team, the Zollner Pistons in 1941 and began play in an industrial league. In 1974, he said that, “Instead of making friends, we made enemies, because no one could beat us. He personally recruited his players, including later Hall of Famer Andy Phillip, Bobby Jeannette, Bob Houbregs, George Yardley and Bob McDermott.

The Zollner Pistons were a very popular franchise, winning the world championship in 1944 and 1945, and reaching the NBA Finals in 1954 and 1955, losing both times. He was the first pro basketball team owner to hire a bench coach, Charley Eckman. The Detroit Pistons hard-nosed style can be traced back to those early teams.

He bought an airplane in 1952 and became the first owner to transport the team to away games. The Minneapolis Lakers were stranded in Milwaukee and Zollner sent his plan to transport them to the game. In 1974 he sold the Detroit Pistons to William Davidson for $7 million dollars. Zollner and Davidson remained the only two majority owners in the history of the longest-running franchise in professional basketball until the death of William Davidson in March 2009.

Bill Davidson’s wife, Karen, took over ownership of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and entertainment. In 2010 it was reported Karen Davidson, owner of the Detroit Pistons is considering selling the team along with its management company and the Palace of Auburn Hills.

There are rumors that the Detroit Red Wings, owned by Little Caesars pizza founders Mike and Marian Ilitch, may build a stadium in downtown Detroit with the Pistons. Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment, which manages city-owned Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings.

A Pistons sale would be another move showing Davidson’s willingness to part with the Pistons and Palace Sports, which also owns DTE Energy Music Theatre and has a contract to manage Meadow Brook Music Festival. In October of 2009, she sold the Detroit Shock women’s basketball franchise to an investment group that moved the team to Tulsa, Okla.


The Pistons have struggled this season, The Pistons’ 259-game sellout streak ended last season, and 35 Palace Sports front-office staffers (out of 400) lost their jobs while departments had to trim budgets by 10 percent. Mrs. Davidson assessed the situation, her lack of interest in the business, her lack of management abilities and came to the conclusion that she is not the individual who should run this empire.

The Detroit Pistons is one of the storied franchises in the NBA. It had very stable ownership and management for five decades but now appears the Pistons will be entering very turbulent waters.



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